Landmark agreement on northern Kosovo concluded

Action, research and documentation (ECMI Synergy Wheel stories) - European Centre for Minority IssuesApril negotiations resulted in a landmark agreement on northern Kosovo, assesses ECMI Kosovo that also reports on reactions to the Pristina-Belgrade agreement.

[Except for editorial changes, the following text is authored and first time issued by European Centre for Minority Issues Kosovo in its April Newsletter]

On 19 April Prime Ministers Hashim Thaçi and Ivica Dačić met in Brussels. The Primes of Kosovo and Serbia respectively concluded a 15-point agreement. The agreement comes after 10 rounds of talks facilitated by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. The dialogue began as technical in October 2011 and became largely political entering a new phase in October 2012.

The 15-point agreement reached shall entail, inter alia, the creation of an Association of Serb Municipalities that will be in charge of economic development, education, health, urban and rural planning. The association will be represented in the Consultative Council for Communities (CCC).

The agreement also foresees one court system under Kosovar law. The court system will include a panel of Kosovo Serb judges to sit permanently in the courthouse in North Mitrovica that will deal with issues related to the Serb majority municipalities.

Both sides have agreed to not block one another in their respective European Union integration processes.

The police force will be integrated, though the police in North Mitrovica will reflect the ethnic composition; the police force shall be called the Kosovo Police and will receive one salary from the Kosovo Police as opposed to double salaries from Pristina and Belgrade.

A regional police commander will also be put in place, covering the four northern Serb majority municipalities and will cooperate with other regional police commanders throughout Kosovo.

There shall be elections held in the northern municipalities in 2013 in accordance with Kosovo law and international standards. The OSCE will facilitate the elections.

An implementation commission is to be established by both sides with EU facilitation.

Several issues remained to be agreed upon such as, agreements on energy and telecommunications.

The agreement was accepted and adopted by the Kosovo Assembly on 21 April. The Serbian Government has adopted the agreement on 22 April, while the Serbian Parliament adopted the government’s report on the political and technical talks, including the Brussels agreement on 26 April.

Serbs in northern Kosovo demand referendum

A protest against the agreement was held by Serbs from North Mitrovica, Zvečan/Zveçan, Leposavić/Leposaviq, and Zubin Potok on 22 April. Serbs were demanding a referendum on the agreement reached. During the protest, Serbs called for the creation of the Assembly of Autonomous Province of Kosovo.

Serbia Director of Office for Kosovo quits

Aleksander Vulin, Director of Serbia’s Government Office for Kosovo, resigned on 24 April. Vulin’s resignation came as a result of his dissatisfaction with the agreement reached between Thaçi and Dačić on 19 April.

EU Commission recommends opening SAA negotiations

As a result of the reached agreement, the EU Commission has issued a formal recommendation to open negotiations with Kosovo on signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).

The SAA feasibility study released in October 2012 confirmed Kosovo’s readiness to open negotiations for an SAA; however it was also contingent on implementation of agreements between Serbia and Kosovo.

The SAA would provide a wide range of cooperation between the EU in Kosovo in fields such as promotion of economic and trade relations and cooperation in the field of justice. Furthermore, the EU Commission adopted a proposal that, if approved, would allow Kosovo to participate in 22 EU programmes.

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